Towards A United And Progressive Kalabari Kingdom

Political Perspectives

Towards A United And Progressive Kalabari Kingdom

By I. S. Martyns-Yellowe (Dr.) Nigeria is becoming increasingly more complex Socio-politically, Socio-economically, Scientifically and technologica


By I. S. Martyns-Yellowe (Dr.)

Nigeria is becoming increasingly more complex Socio-politically, Socio-economically, Scientifically and technologically. Such increasing complexity demands a lot of adjustment, as well as a political will for the various component units (State, Local Government Area, tribal, ethnic etc) to cope with it. Meanwhile, the political challenges of contemporary Nigerian Society have awakened a new set of values in the various ethnic units in the country.

The furor of States and Local Government creation, the confusion over the 1991 Census are all about the collective consciousness of the various ethnic groups not to be left behind in the scheme of things. Smaller units of people with tenuous cultural affinity are coming together to achieve numerical relevance to press for their rights. People with little or no cultural ties, but with common aspirations and interests centered around the desire to cope with the tempo of Socio-political and Socio-economic changes in Nigeria are coming together to form larger units to gain political relevance and recognition. People of the same stock but with long-existing internal schizms are fast mending fences and presenting a united front to survive the fierce and competitive politico-economic climate in the country.

His Serene Majesty, King Prof T.J.T. Princewill


One people that tend to appear unperturbed by these realities of present-day Nigeria are the Kalabari people. So strong are the bonds that bind them together, yet so disunited are they; so ridiculously small are the points of disagreement, yet so wide is the rift; so much talent have they, yet so little to show for it; so much potential to achieve great heights have they, yet so little have they actualized; so great expectation from the rest of the State to lead, yet so far are they from the realization of this; so much feared, respected and admired by others are they, yet so easily preyed upon by lesser people. The great Kingdom of yesterday is today tottering on the precipice of humiliation, and on the verge of being marginalized in the State.

For the past twenty years or so, we have been in the midst of a terrible predicament and Social confusion, central to which are intrinsic problems of unity, leadership and followership, and problems of redeeming a fast-dwindling heritage. On the traditional scene there is so much distrust, suspicion and fear of domination and imposition by the larger communities over lesser ones; social injustice and lack of regard for age-long traditional conventions; and inconsequential Chieftaincy wranglings. On the contemporary scene, we are fast losing grounds in educational advancement for which we were once held in high esteem. We have not been able to hold our own in the commercial sector either. Above all, we have shown ourselves to be incapable of taking our rightful place in contemporary political scene, and rather than fight for the over­all communal interest we have been guilty of projecting narrow parochial and myopic personal or town interests.

Today, we have three Local Governments; the Ogonis and Ikwerres like us have three Local Governments each. What degree of cooperation at the sub-regional level exists between our three Local Governments? How well have we fared in terms of governance with these three Local Governments? Have our aspirations for bringing government to the grass-roots been met? How much have Abalama, Krakrama, Oporama Ifoko benefited from the creation of ASARI-TORU Local Government in 1989? How much have Soku, Idama and Kula benefited from the creation of AKUKU-TORU Local Government in 1991? And how much has the excision of Asari-Toru and Akuku- Toru from the former Degema Local Government improved the lot of Bakana, Tombia and Old Bakana? How much face-lift and service improvement has Buguma received over the past seven years of being a Local Government Headquarters, and how much has Abonnema over the past five years? Why is it that the infrastructural facilities that existed in the Degema of old, rather than at least spread along the Degema – Buguma road to Obuama, have progressively deteriorated to a state of near decay? How have the big towns cooperated amongst themselves (Abonnema, Buguma, Bakana) and how have they carried the smaller towns along – Abonnema/Obonoma; Bakana/Old Bakana; Buguma/Ido; Tombia/Bukuma?

The sad truth is that we have not been able to attract and install good leadership into our Local Government seats. We have not been able to demand accountability and selfless-service from the Local Governments we have installed. We are more interested in how BIAS or NIS or BAWA officials handle and manage the N2 million realised from annual launching, than how our Council Chairmen manage the N3 million revenue they receive monthly. How can you compare the quality of BIAS, NIS and BAWA leadership with that of the Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema Councils respectively? Why do we expect good Local Governance from poor quality Local Government elective office holders?

If we have fared this badly at the home front, how much better have we fared at the State and Federal Levels? There is no area of human endeavour in which continuity in office and experience are not necessary? How much support have we given to our politician to continue in office? In First Republic Politics Chief P.G. Warmate is the rare survivor in Kalabari-land. If you meet the Mazi Ikoku’s who are still relevant today, they enquire about him. What relevance do we accord him? In the Second Republic, Kalabari had the third Citizen of the State in Chief R.R. Briggs as Speaker of the House of Assembly. His contemporaries – the Okilos, the Anuchas the Rufuses who are still relevant ask after him; what relevance do we accord him? Kalabari had a successful duo in the Houses of Representatives in Chief Dagogo Princewill and Hon, Tubo BobManuel. Chief Dagogo Princewill eventually went to the Senate. When you meet the Uba Ahmeds, the Sarakis, the Junaid Mohammeds who were their contemporaries and who are still relevant in politics today they talk about them in good light. What relevance do we accord them? We had a National Vice Chairman of the ruling party in Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs who is still very much respected by his colleagues at the time. Did we not disgrace him out of office? How much relevance do we accord him now?

We have had Federal Ministers – the Chief (Dr) Akobo, Prof. Tam David-West, Alabo T. O. Graham-Douglas – all of whom made their mark in their respective offices. Their contemporaries are still much relevant in today’s politics. What relevance do they have amongst us? When is this PHD (pull him down; push him down) syndrome going to end in Kalabari land?

Why do the Kalabari people see elections as an all-comers affair? In the Second Republic, Kalabari in 1979 fielded three gubernatorial Candidates in each of three of the five registered parties; and a running mate in the fourth, and naturally lost out to Melford Okilo. In 1983, two of our sons contested against themselves in the NPN and lost out to Melford Okilo again. In 1991 Kalabari again fielded the highest number of gubernatorial aspirants in the two parties – SDP and NRC. At the end, we lost out.

Our problems are further compounded by the fact that we are said to have a corruptible and gullible followership. Politicians in general believe that the Kalabari electorate is the most expensive and financially demanding in the whole State. The sum total of it all is that the Kalabari People have a serious leadership and followership problem, and that this shows up both in our corporate existence as a nation as well as in our political fortunes, or should I say, misfortunes in the State and Country.

There are several causes for this state of affairs, but these will not be addressed here in details. But suffice it to say that at the center of it all is the lack of a rallying point both in the trado-cultural setting as well as in the contemporary socio-political setting. We need to reconstitute the Kalabari Se-Kobiri on mutually acceptable terms to all Kalabari towns and villages. And in addition, and more importantly, we need a body like the KALABARI NATIONAL CONGRESS we are inaugurating today.

I must add however that before the birth of the Kalabari National Congress there are other Pan Kalabari bodies all working towards the same goal – a greater Kalabari. Notable amongst these are the KALABARI SOLIDARITY ORGANIZATION (KASON), whose working paper on the question of lasting peace and unity in Kalabari based on the findings of a most extensive and painstaking tour of Kalabari land is in its last stages of Production; and the Kalabari Congressional Forum (KCF). If the KASON is composed of the Kalabari elite and the KCF of the younger segment of the Youth, the KNC appears to be composed of the intermediate group and arguably the politically most relevant segment of the Kalabari Society. While advocating for collaboration between these three bodies and for any others that are already existing to fuse into them, there is need for some specialization, with the KNC specializing in the contemporary Socio-political aspect of our development; the KASON – in the Socio-cultural and socio-economic aspect; and the KCF in mobilizing the youth purposively in these two aspects.

From this stand-point, I should like to address some salient issues emanating from the recent National Constitutional Conference, the unfolding political trend in the on-going Transition Programme, and the anxiously awaited Fourth Republic as they are likely to affect the Kalabari Kingdom.

Although the Conference rejected the 1991 census and recommended that the projected 1963 be used, it appears that the government has with effect from May 1996 started using the 1991 Census at least for Revenue Allocation. If the 1963 projected Census gives Kalabari an unbeatable 580,000, the 1991 gives us a paltry 316,000 with Ikwerre having 520,000, Cgoni 507,000 Etche 228,000 Andoni/Opobo 202,000 and Okrika 248,000. The political implications of this are obviously negative as even the voters register used for the 1992 and 1993 elections and to be used for Fourth Republic elections are based on the 1991 census figures.
With these figures, the Kalabari have lost the dominance we used to enjoy, and whichever State we find ourselves in are threatened with minority status.

Federal House of Representatives and State House of Assembly

The Federal and State Constituencies will be based on population. The Federal House of Representatives will have 360 seats with each Constituency/Seat representing approximately 250,000 people. The Kalabari population based on 1963 census could sustain 2 out of the State’s 14; but the based on 1991 census, it can only sustain 1 out of the State’s 16. No matter however new States are created, the decrement is not altered.

No State should have less than 24 Assembly Constituencies or more than 40. And each Federal Constituency cannot hold less than 3 or more than 4 State Assembly Constituencies. Given the 1963 census figures which give Kalabari 2 large Federal Constituencies (each in excess of 250,000) we should have been guaranteed 8 of the State’s 40 Assembly Seats. But with the 1991 census, we shall have only 4 of the State’s 40 seats.

The number of Local Governments has no more relevance with regard to State and Federal Assemblies. Population is one of the major factors considered in Local Government Creation. Our request for a total of 8 LGA’s was based on the 1963 census figures of 580,000. With the 1991 making us only 316,000, how many Local Governments can we realistically expect?

Population is one of the major factors used for revenue allocation to LGA’s. What will be our fate with the 1991 census figures giving us only 55% of the 1963 figures? The question is what led to this poor census figure?


These and other features of the anticipated innovations in the political arrangements in the Fourth Republic engender a serious challenge for the Kalabari people. It is impossible and not advisable to discuss them in depth and at great length in the open and in such a forum. The Abacha Administration is bent on a new political order and creating the enabling environment for the polity to install and empower a new political class. Kalabari must be part of this break from the past. We need a new orientation and a completely new political ethos and culture.

Politics should be made attractive for people who can play it neat and those unscrupulous selfish and deceitful politicians should be flushed out. We need to educate the masses in the culture of party politics and party discipline. We need to empower the electorate both materially and spiritually to be alive to their civic responsibility and to recognize the power of their vote in installing a good government and bringing down a bad government. We must inculcate in our people good followership arid leadership qualities, ferret sound and patriotic minds, groom them for leadership and install them in positions of leadership. There is need for a leadership imbued with sterling qualities of vision, equity, patriotism, transparent honesty, and immense courage; a leader­ship with the fear of God, and one that will galvanize the Kalabari Kingdom and project it as a strong link in the Rivers and Nigerian family chain and indeed a strategic hub in the State’s and nation’s wheel of progress. We need a leadership that will build bridges for better mutual understanding both within and without; one that will adopt a policy of consensus among the various component units of the Kingdom where the strong will carry along the weak in order to create a prosperous and egalitarian Kalabari nation; and above all, a leadership that will use high tech diplomacy to re-establish Kalabari in its pre-eminent position in the comity of ethnic nationalities in the State and Country.

The Kalabaris as a people, nay even the Kalabari National Congress, cannot all join one political party, nor is it even necessary so to do . What is necessary is the imbibition of this new credo and ethos wherever we find ourselves. We must form a committee that will review the foregoing in depth and formulate sodalities of bouncing Kalabari back from its present predicament into the paths of political ascendancy.

Kalabari was a city State in 1879. She became 3 major towns by 1884. By 1915 several other towns had joined with the three major towns to form a stronger Kingdom. In 1976, quite ahead of its contemporaries it became one of the ten local Government Areas that ushered in the Second Republic. In 1979 it became the only Senatorial district coterminous with an ethnic nationality in Rivers State. By 1991 it had become three Local Governments. Who knows, a united progressive Kalabari nation putting its acts together will in the next few years become a KALABARI STATE.

May God bless us all!
Long Live the Kalabari Kingdom.